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A Father's Day Tribute to my Dad

Paul grew up on a farm where moral virtues such as hard work and honesty were cherished. Each of his classes has a moral lesson.

Dad's Old Barn, Silo, and Horse Shed


A Father's Day Tribute

A Father's Day tribute to my dad is long overdue. Dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack in May of 2004 while I was overseas with the government. Fortunately, I had seen him twice during the year before his death. After I returned home to help spread his ashes in the woods on our farm, my brother-in-law wrote a short tribute to dad. I had wanted to write something at the time, but I had to immediately get back to my job in Thailand.

Dad As a Boy and Youth

On the occasion of this Father's Day, I want to share with everyone my memories of dad. About 10 years before his death, dad and I drove up to his birthplace in Door Country which is a peninsula in northeastern Wisconsin. We had a good time that day as dad pointed out where he was born and the first one-room school he attended. My grandpa was born in Wisconsin, although my great-grandpa was born in Germany. Grandma was born in Austria, and according to my dad, she came to the U.S. when she was in her late teens after leaving the convent. Dad was born the second oldest. He had one older brother, one younger brother, and four younger sisters. All are deceased now.

I remember dad telling me that when he was a boy he used to run around barefoot a lot of times. After he got his ears boxed a lot in Catholic schools, grandpa put him into the "Republican" school, as dad put it. During the Great Depression when he was about 15, my dad dropped out of school and got into trouble with the law. He never liked to talk about that, and he was extremely embarrassed when Uncle Dick brought up the incident about four years preceding dad's passing. As a form of probation, the juvenile court judge ordered him to work on dairy farms for a certain period as reform through labor. I guess it is from this experience that dad started to develop his enthusiasm for dairy farming.

Dad and his family in 1938.  From left to right standing: dad, Aunt Marie, Uncle Augie, Aunt Laura, and Uncle Dick.  Seated are grandma and grandpa Kuehn.  Seated in front from left to right are Aunt Florence and Aunt Helen

Dad and his family in 1938. From left to right standing: dad, Aunt Marie, Uncle Augie, Aunt Laura, and Uncle Dick. Seated are grandma and grandpa Kuehn. Seated in front from left to right are Aunt Florence and Aunt Helen

Dad As a Young Man

My dad and mom married during the Second World War in 1943. Receiving a deferment from service for unspecified medical reasons, dad never entered the armed forces. After getting married, dad went back to night school and did eventually graduate from high school. He had wanted to become a veterinarian and even attended college classes for a semester. It was tough for him because he was working full-time, and after my sister, mother, and I all had appendectomies in 1950, he had to quit college. The dairy farming bug, though, wasn't out of him, and in 1954 he rented a small dairy farm about 25 miles outside of Milwaukee.

Dad and Mom's Wedding Picture

Taken in 1943

Taken in 1943

Dad and mom pictured with me in 1945

Dad and mom pictured with me in 1945

Dad shoveling snow in the late 1940s.

Dad shoveling snow in the late 1940s.

Dad As a Dairy Farmer

In 1957, my father realized his dream by purchasing a 117-acre farm north of Honey Creek in Walworth County Wisconsin. Farming was not easy for my dad because it was a second job for him. He would do his farming during the day, and then around 2:00 or 2:30 in the afternoon get ready to drive into the city and work the second or evening shift from 4:00 P.M. until midnight. Dad never made much money farming, and it was really sad when he had to sell out at an auction right before Christmas in 1963 to make ends meet. After dad got a new full-time job off the farm along with ma a few years later, my father got back into dairy farming for about 10-15 years before he sold all of his cattle for the last time around 1985.

Dad purchased our farm in 1957.  This picture was taken probably in the mid-70s.

Dad purchased our farm in 1957. This picture was taken probably in the mid-70s.

The Kuehn Family Farm North of Honey Creek, Wisconsin

Photo taken around 2010

Photo taken around 2010

Dad Milking a Cow

Dad milking a cow in the1980s

Dad milking a cow in the1980s

What Made Dad Special?

My father was a unique person, and in my eyes, the following four traits made him special:

1. A Great Interest In Education

Dad encouraged all of his kids to go to school and make something out of their lives. When I was younger, he encouraged me to try to become a doctor. He also encouraged my second oldest sister to become a vet, and he was so pleased when she eventually got into vet school and became a vet in 1986. It's doubtful that my two sisters and I would have gone on to school if dad hadn't arranged to pay for our education. I remember dad helping me with algebra problems in the ninth grade, and pushing me to take all the math I could in high school. According to dad, if you could express yourself in math, you knew what you were talking about. In his mid-80s, dad's mind was still sharp at doing math problems.

2. Dad Was a Very Good Handyman:

Dad always said, "If you want something done right and well, do it yourself." Undoubtedly, that's why he became a handyman. There wasn't anything he couldn't build or fix. On the farm, he built pens and put in stanchions for the cows as well as widened the gutters, and installed a barn cleaner. Dad built sheds for animals and even put a kitchen extension onto our house. He could also fix cars and tractors. Two years before his death he was renovating a small bungalow in the vicinity of our farm.

3. Dad Had an Interest In Baseball:

Some of my fondest memories of dad center around baseball. Dad said he was a pretty good ballplayer as a teen, and even claimed to get a try-out from the Boston Red Sox. I remember dad teaching me how to catch a ball when I was seven. After that, he got me a catcher's mitt, mask, and shin guards. I'll always cherish the time he spent playing ball with me. One thing that stands out in my memory is the village Fourth of July picnic back in 1960. We had a softball game and dad was the pitcher for the opposing team. He must have grooved me a pitch because I hit it over the center-field wall for a homer.

4. Dad Lived a Frugal Life:

Dad never had time for a vacation with the cows, farm work, and working a full-time job. Because he didn't earn that much money from his job and selling milk, we lived very frugally as a family. Ma and dad never bought new clothes or a new car when I was a kid. Dad didn't buy his first new car until he was 80. Up until he died, dad bought all of his clothes at second-hand stores.

Remembering Dad

Quotes of Wisdom

Finally, I remember the following quotes of wisdom from dad that have stuck with me through all these years:

1. "We Get Too Soon Old and Yet Too Late Smart:"

Over the years I have discovered a lot of truth in this saying. For some reason, it seems that we repeat too many mistakes and can not learn from our experiences.

2. "If You Work Hard and Apply Yourself, You Can Make Something Out of Yourself in This Country:"

Dad believed in the American dream, and in fact, he did live and achieve his American dream. The strong work ethic and optimism I possess come from my father.

3. "Do a Good Job in Whatever You Do. Don't Do a Half-Assed Job:"

I have always striven to do my best in whatever I do. If I haven't succeeded, it's not due to a lack of effort. Also, if you can do the best job, cutting corners will never get you anywhere in the end.

4. "Don't Cheat People. What Will It Gain You After You Die?"

My father was a very honest person and instilled this quality in me

Dad has been gone now since 2004; however, his memories and words of wisdom will remain with me for the remainder of my life.

My Father in His Later Years

Dad and the author.  Picture was taken in 1993.

Dad and the author. Picture was taken in 1993.

Picture taken of dad and the family in Nov 2002.

Picture taken of dad and the family in Nov 2002.

  • Unconditional Love of my Mother: In Memory of Mom
    The unconditional love of my mother was irreplacable. While mom was alive, she was a model wife, mother, and homemaker who brought a lot of warmth and happiness into the home. We all miss you mom.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn